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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 10 Jul 1963

Vol. 56 No. 16

Private Business. - Tourist Traffic Bill, 1963 (Certified Money Bill): Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This is a very short Bill, the main purpose of which is to make provision for the continuation of the grant schemes operated by Bord Fáilte Éireann for the development of holiday accommodation. This is being done by increasing from £500,000 to £1.5 million the special fund established for the purpose under Section 2 (1) (b) of the Tourist Traffic Act, 1959.

Under the Bord Fáilte grant schemes, cash grants of 20 per cent are available towards the cost of providing additional hotel bedrooms, either in new hotels or in additions to existing hotels. Grants of 20 per cent are also available for general improvement works in existing hotels such as the provision of central heating, the conversion of bedrooms into bed/bath units and other structural improvements. Two new grant schemes were added in July, 1962, under which 20 per cent grants are available for the construction or improvement of accommodation for staff and for the provision of entertainment facilities for guests, for example, recreation rooms, tennis courts, putting greens and so on. Hoteliers also have the advantage of a State guaranteed loan scheme which assists them to raise capital on favourable terms, and Bord Fáilte pay grants from their general funds towards the interest charges on moneys borrowed, whether under guarantee or not, for construction or improvement works. Hoteliers qualify for a remission for seven years of two-thirds of local rates on new buildings or improvements and there are also income tax allowances in respect of expenditure incurred on development works.

As a result of the incentives available, the volume of accommodation— which a few years ago was a major bottleneck in the tourist industry—has increased substantially. The total number of registered rooms in hotels and guest houses increased from 16,642 in 1958 to 19,630 at the beginning of this year, an increase of almost 3,000. Approximately 1,800 rooms were added in the top grades—A Star and A—and nearly 1,500 in grades B and B/C. Accommodation in the lower two grades, C and D showed a fall of nearly 300 rooms but not all these rooms were lost to the tourist industry as they include establishments which improved their premises and were upgraded.

The most publicised aspect of the hotel development programme has been the building of new top grade accommodation, especially the new Intercontinental Hotels in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. The opening of these hotels and the extension of existing first-class hotels are welcome developments because until now we have not been able to meet the demand for first-class accommodation. Tour promoters and travel agents have been reluctant to promote certain categories of traffic to this country because of our inability to guarantee accommodation for the requisite standard and much business, especially from North America, has been lost as a result. We will now be in a position to cater adequately for this traffic. The Intercontinental Hotels will form part of an international chain of hotels and will enjoy the active support of the sales and promotional effort of the Irish Air Companies, who are substantial shareholders, and of Pan American Airways who are associated with the project throught their subsidiary company, Intercontinental Hotels Incorporated. I should like to make it clear that these hotels do not offer accommodation in the luxury category. They are classifiable by international standards, not as luxury hotels, but as topgrade hotels and they will fill a definite want in our new tourist structure. I have no doubt that considerable new business will accrue to this country through these hotels and that the benefits will be evident in our future tourist income.

Targets in top grade accommodation are now assured and, for some time past, Bord Fáilte have not been prepared to encourage additional expansion of first class accommodation except where the promoter is in a position to generate additional business for the extra accommodation.

The opening of the new hotels has received so much publicity that there appears to be an impression that the expansion of hotel accommodation has been confined to the top grade. This, of course, is not the case. The current Bord Fáilte Guide to hotels and guest houses has 1,226 more rooms in Grade B and 252 more in Grade B/C than in 1958. There is, however, still a need for development of accommodation in these grades—in some cases for extension, in others for modernisation and improvement. Existing hotels in the middle and lower grades tend to be on the small side. Grades B/C, C and D account for 58 per cent of the total number of hotels but only 35 per cent of the total number of hotel rooms. The average size of hotels in these grades is 14 rooms and there are 80 hotels with less than ten rooms. In addition, many hotels in these grades would benefit from modernisation work but only 8 per cent of them have utilised the Bord Fáilte improvement grant schemes.

The fact that Bord Fáilte have succeeded in attracting investment by international first class hotel operators has led to a suggestion that the Board have concentrated on the top grade to the exclusion of the middle and lower grades. I would like to make it clear, however, that the grants for the development of accommodation have since their inception been equally available in respect of all grades. The fact that progress in the top grades has been more significant is not due to any lack of encouragement from Bord Fáilte for hoteliers in the lower grades contemplating extensions or improvements. Bord Fáilte must of course insist on certain minimum standards, and the Bord operate an advisory service for those who need it. The fact that 1,500 extra rooms are now available in Grades B and B/C, in different parts of the country, is proof of a positive promotional policy on the part of Bord Fáilte towards the provision of middle-grade accommodation. The number of applicants, however, has simply not been sufficient.

It will be clear from all this that despite the progress made by the hotel industry in recent years we cannot claim that all problems have been solved or that nothing more remains to be done. I, therefore, asked Bord Fáilte some time ago to undertake a complete examination of the whole position in regard to accommodation for visitors. I am anxious to ensure that current needs and requirements are identified and that policies are directed towards meeting those requirements. Bord Fáilte have now carried out this review and have conveyed to me their views as to the manner in which the programme for accommodation development should be directed in the future. There are many aspects of this question that must be given careful consideration and these are now receiving my attention. The matter is complex because the problems and considerations arising are not identical for all categories and grades of accommodation or for all parts of the country. Whatever the emphasis in future policies, it is clear that the grant schemes must be maintained for a further period.

As the original fund of £500,000 has been exhausted new legislation is necessary to enable further moneys to be made available to Bord Fáilte. Grant commitments in the present financial year will amount to over £300,000 and it is necessary to provide at least £350,000 for the continuation of the schemes after this year; that makes about £650,000. Bord Fáilte hope to secure the provision of additional accommodation of the holiday camp or holiday village type and this could involve grants of a further £120,000. In addition, we may need additional grant moneys, amounting possibly to £200,000, to stimulate development of new middle-grade hotels in resort areas not already adequately served by medium-priced accommodation. These figures are, of course, very tentative but they indicate the possible future requirements. I am proposing, therefore, that a new limit of £1.5 million be placed on the holiday accommodation fund, enabling additional moneys not exceeding £1 million to be paid to Bord Fáilte.

Payments from the fund will be by way of annual grant-in-aid to Bord Fáilte, and will be subject to approval of Dáil Éireann as part of the Vote for my Department. Moneys paid to the Board from this fund are additional to their annual grant for publicity, promotion and other general activities and to the money voted annually from the special fund for the development of major tourist resorts. These latter funds are voted under separate legislation and are not affected by the present Bill.

Apart from hotel development, Bord Fáilte are also giving close attention to the position in regard to other forms of accommodation for visitors. Guest houses can obtain assistance for development work under the guaranteed loan and interest grant schemes. In the last few years, Bord Fáilte have extended their activities to take in the inspection and listing of unregistered holiday accommodation and there are now available in respect of almost all the holiday and angling centres lists showing the boarding houses and private houses which offer accommodation for guests as well as houses available for renting by visitors. These lists show a total of 3,370 bedrooms providing room for 5,240 people. Accommodation for visiting students is also being listed, and lists are now available with accommodation for 400 students. The possibilities presented by colleges and other institutions which are vacant for a period during the summer are also being examined. Bord Fáilte now have a list of farmhouses which offer holiday facilities and they hope to develop this type of holiday attraction in future years. Particular attention is being given to the possibilities of enabling the small farm areas of the country to benefit to a greater extent from tourism, and I hope that these developments may also lead to further extensions of An Óige's chain of Youth Hostels.

There is another aspect of the hotel industry which I would like to mention here even though it does not arise specifically from the present Bill, that is, the question of staff training. With the expansion of accommodation the shortage of qualified staff has become a fairly serious problem and, in order to deal with it, Bord Fáilte, in conjunction with the hotel industry, the trade union concerned and vocational education interests, have established a new organisation to undertake responsibility for an expanded programme of staff recruitment and training. This body is entitled the Council for Education Recruitment and Training in the Hotel and Catering Trade or, briefly, CERT.

Initially, half the cost of this new arrangement will be borne by Bord Fáilte and the balance by the other interests concerned. The substantial Bord Fáilte support will be necessary in the early stages to ensure that the expanded training programme gets under way but I would hope that in due course the hotel industry and those engaged in it will assume increasing responsibility for matters pertaining to staff training and that CERT will ultimately evolve into an organisation supported by the hotel industry itself. I would hope that an industry as large and as significant as the hotel and catering industry would aspire to an organisation of professional status concerning itself not only with practical questions of staff recruitment and training but also with the general question of raising professional standards in the industry. I recognise, however, that the hotel industry is not yet sufficiently organised to undertake anything on this scale at the present time.

It is necessary, therefore, that Bord Fáilte should not only give direct financial support in the early stages but should also assist in the collection of the hotel industry's contribution. This has been agreed with the Irish Hotels Federation. I propose, therefore, to authorise Bord Fáilte to take account of the need to provide for the activities of CERT when prescribing registration fees. This will, of course, entail increased fees but I am confident that proprietors of registered premises will recognise and appreciate that the money will be applied towards the provision of qualified personnel for the industry. It must be remembered that the trade union and the vocational education authorities are also prepared to make their contribution. The hotel industry has received, and under this Bill will continue to receive, very substantial State assistance and it is not unreasonable that it should make this contribution towards the solution of the staffing problem.

The hotel industry is more active and enterprising to-day than at any time in the past. The fact that the £500,000 grant fund provided in 1959 has been exhausted is an indication of the rise in the rate of investment of the industry because the Bord Fáilte grants, being limited to 20 per cent. of approved works, must be matched at least four-fold by hoteliers' own spending. In fact, total investment in hotel development has been running at more than £1 million each year. There is, of course, a long way to go before the hotel industry can be regarded as fully equipped to meet the challenge of increasing competition and the other difficulties facing the tourist industry. There is a need to adopt up-to-date ideas in regard to lay-out, equipping and management of hotels including more modern methods of accounting and record keeping. Some hotels have come together to engage in co-operative advertising and promotion but there is scope for much more activity of this kind. Hoteliers must be prepared to study available markets and, where necessary, to go out after business, sharing the costs where advisable on a group basis. I know that rising costs are a problem for hoteliers as for everybody else but this makes it all the more important that our hotels should offer comfort, efficiency, and above all good value.

Figures now available relating to last year's tourist season show that the forebodings which were voiced in relation to a recession were not justified. The gross earnings from visitors, including the net visitor receipts of Irish transport companies, amount to £46.5 million, in 1961, and the 1962 figure, calculated on the same basis, came to £48.9 million, an increase of £2.4 million or 5 per cent. Since 1957, when our visitor income was £32.4 million, the increase has been £16.5 million or 50 per cent and, even allowing for the change in money values since then, this represents a very real increase in the value of tourism in the economy. It must be said, however, that the rate of growth in 1962 was lower than over the past five years generally. Bord Fáilte believe that the slowing-down of the rate of growth in 1962 was caused by special conditions and they expect the upward trend in the number of visitors to continue. If we are to reap the benefit of this increase it is essential that accommodation be available to meet the needs of all categories of visitors, that traffic should not be diverted from Ireland because accommodation of the requisite kind and at the right price level is not available. The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that the incentives for the provision of the necessary accommodation will continue to operate and I, therefore, confidently recommend the Bill for your approval.

We have just had a good example of how a Minister can come to the Seanad and look for authority—I suppose the Seanad has authority—to spend more money and make a case for that expenditure. In contrast to what we heard previously, the Minister has told us what has been accomplished by the money already expended, and what it is hoped to accomplish with the money he is seeking in this Bill.

I am concerned about two aspects of the tourist industry. I suppose, being in the trade union business—and it is a business—I have some experience of travelling around and I know the type of service given, the accommodation provided, and the prices charged. May I illustrate what I want to say by giving an example? Last Monday I travelled to an important town down south. I suppose the hotel in which I stayed was hardly above B or C class. I had a meat tea for which I was charged 10/6d. To test that charge I had exactly the same meal coming back in the train the following night. The charge on the train was approximately two-thirds of what I was charged in the hotel. The food, the service, and the whole presentation, were infinitely better on the train. I imagine the charges which had to be met by the people supplying the service were different in the sense that the people employed on the train, cooking and serving the food, were employed at trade union wages. I doubt very much if that was the position in the hotel.

I am particularly concerned with the tendency of hoteliers around the country to increase their prices unjustifiably. I am very much afraid they will kill the goose that lays the golden egg. I am struck on many occasions by the alarm that is expressed by tourists, and particularly English tourists, when they go into a hotel which they imagine will have reasonable prices—a hotel that is not a Grade A hotel—and are faced with charges like that. From my experience, those charges have gone up about 50 per cent in the past two years. I quite admit that the people operating the hotels have had to face increased charges, too, but I wonder whether an increase in the price of meals to that extent is fully justified.

What I am concerned about is that by this too easy approach to increasing prices, they will frighten away tourists, and particularly tourists from Great Britain, who can be the best spenders when they come to this country. They are quite prepared to spend, but when they get the impression that they are being overcharged, they will not come again, and their friends will be equally slow to come to Ireland. All our promotion, and the advertising which is done admirably by Bord Fáilte, all the efforts to improve the standard of our hotels, all the money which is well expended and worthwhile, will be wasted, and thrown away, by the attitude of some hoteliers who are trying to get rich too quickly.

I do not think the Minister has any responsibility or function in this matter. I know he would be equally against overcharging. It may be said that it is wrong to draw attention to this overcharging. I do not think so. My words will not carry any publicity. I appeal to the Minister to use his influence, and the influence of Bord Fáilte, to discourage that too easy approach of people upping their charges, simply because enough visitors are not coming to the country, and they will not get rich quickly.

Another aspect which was touched upon by the Minister in his speech is the desirability and necessity for providing proper accommodation for staff, and more especially, and equally essential, proper training for staff. In the hotel industry we are fortunate in that we have union organised workers in the bigger centres. This is a particularly progressive union, or a particularly progressive branch of the union. It sticks out to anyone in the trade union movement that it is a particularly progressive branch which is concerned about the future of the industry in so far as they are organised and are improving the standard and the training of their people. The Minister knows and appreciates that position.

Outside the larger centres, however, the employees, the workers in the hotel industry are unorganised and are to a great extent seasonal employees. It is not through any fault of theirs that they are not properly trained to cook the food or to serve the food at the table. It is, unfortunately, true that you can go to many hotels in the country and find that the waiters have just been employed a few weeks before the summer influx of visitors arrive. They are not properly trained and I doubt very much if they are paid very much, except what they might pick up in tips. Again, they are let go immediately the summer season is over.

I am glad that an effort is being made to lift the level of training in this very important arm of industry but I would also appeal to the Minister to use his influence to help in the creation of a joint labour committee, if that is the appropriate phrase, to lay down minimum rates of pay and minimum conditions in the hotel industry generally. There is a great need for this where the staff are not fully organised. It is essential that the people taken into those hotels should be paid reasonable wages and given reasonable conditions of employment. I think, in the present context, that can only be done by the establishment of a joint labour committee. I shall not delay the Minister further. I support the Bill.

I was very impressed by the Minister's statement because it seemed to me—just casually as a member of the public—that there were many things wrong with our tourist policy but it is clear, I think, that, as a member of the public, I was not as well informed as I ought to be. I was extremely impressed by the Minister's general statement, his general review of the tourist position, but there are certain things which give me concern and I should like to echo—I am sure the Minister has heard this many times before—Senator Murphy on the question of over-charging.

He has had his experiences. I have had mine and I should like to tell the House for a moment of an experience I had last year when I took my wife and two of my children to stay in a hotel in the west of Ireland for a long week-end, three days and a bit more. Quite clear in the hall of the hotel was a Bord Fáilte statement that the charge per day for a stay of over three days was so much. In fact, when I came to pay my bill at the end of my stay, I was charged for every single item we had had. Breakfast was separate, lunch separate, dinner and tea separate and, as a matter of fact, I was charged for a number of drinks which I had not had.

I might remind the House that the story I have told was of my experience of overcharging in this hotel in the west of Ireland where I spent three days with my wife and children. I was charged item by item for every meal that my family had eaten. When I came to pay the Bill and saw these items set out one by one I spoke to the cashier and said: "You have got in the hall a notice which says that if there is a stay over three days the charge is per day and not per itimised meal". I was told that this had been completely done away with and that you had to spend an entire week in the hotel before you got a reduction in charges, so I paid the bill. I thought that seemed excessive but I did not know what the rules were at the time.

However, as we were driving home my younger daughter said: "That was a very nice manager in the hotel, daddy, but I could not make him understand that you were not English." I do not know why he should have thought that I was English, but for some reason he did. I am afraid this started the penny dropping, and when I got home I started to look up the Bord Fáilte regulations and saw that there was in the list of charges an item for this particular hotel showing that it was per day over three days. I telephoned to Bord Fáilte and asked them whether there had been any change in that for this particular hotel and they said No. I sat down after that and wrote to the manager—on the paper of Seanad Éireann, as a matter of fact—and pointed this out to him. I got a most apologetic letter by return and a cheque which I think was for £7 or £8.

The significant thing in that particular story, it seems to me, is that there was this overcharging which was raised, and was denied initially, and we were thought to be English. I do not know whether that sort of thing was done in that hotel this year, because I have heard no instances of it, but I have heard that in a number of places all over the country people were being overcharged. In the case of English people they would pay, think that they were paying too much but would not make a fuss as I did.

I know that Bord Fáilte have certain powers in cases of overcharging brought to their notice. Possibly they have power to strike hotels off the list or to issue some warning or something of that kind. It is difficult to get people to report these things. I should like the Minister, if he has the figures available, to tell us apart from the powers Bord Fáilte have in these cases how often these powers have been exercised, because it seems to me to be an extremely serious matter that hotels in different parts of the country are and have been overcharging, and that not merely should the most serious view be taken but the most serious action should be taken by Bord Fáilte in places in which this overcharging is drawn to their attention, because eventually, as Senator Murphy has rightly said, the result will be that people will go back to Britain and other places and say: "Irish hotels are very nice. They give you a céad míle fáilte; but they certainly take your money all right." That is not going to do the tourist industry any good at all in the long run.

On the question raised by Senator Murphy about food, I should like to see fewer menus in French, because there seems to be a general view in many hotels, particularly second class hotels, that if you put the menu into French you need not do anything about the food—as long as the menu is in French everyone will think that he is getting marvellous food. But visitors to hotels soon get wise to that one. It would be far better to have menus in English but the food better.

I should like to see some system of linking the training which is being given to chefs and managers through the auspices of Bord Fáilte to the recommendations of hotels. If it were practicable, I should like to see in the annual list of hotels some note, star or indication of some kind that the cook, chef, or manager as the case might be had gone through some course recognised by Bord Fáilte. There is certainly an idea prevalent that if you do a little bit of cleaning up of your hotel, put new wallpaper on the walls, repaint the woodwork and increase the number of basins and lavatories, you need not do very much about the food and service as long as you put the menu in French. That is not going to do us any good at all.

Senator Murphy spoke about meals on trains. I should like to make a plea to the Minister about this if it is within his power. Any time I have gone on the Cork train and had a meal, particularly breakfast, I have noticed that I am given knife, fork and spoon—only one knife. I would have thought that CIE could afford to give its travellers two knives with breakfast when it consists of bacon and eggs. This, of course, is only a little thing, but, again, it creates a bad impression on a visitor if he has to take the knife he used with his bacon and eggs, wipe it on the bread, and then put butter or marmalade on top of what he has wiped the bacon and eggs with.

In today's paper there was the very welcome news that a ferry service for motor cars coming here is coming at last and we should have it in three years' time. In a peak period it will bring in something like 2,000 cars. On an estimate, that will mean 2,000 or 3,000 additional travellers in this country, perhaps 5,000 in a peak week during the summer. In addition, the air service, and the sea service, will presumably be increasing as well, so, in three years' time, all being well, we will have an increased tourist population, certainly for certain periods.

I was particularly interested to hear from the Minister's speech that Bord Fáilte are satisfied that their policy of supporting luxury hotels is more or less at an end, and that they will pay attention to the ordinary Grade B and C type of hotel. Here, the need is very great because I still feel that while it is very attractive to get people from North America, and send them around on package tours, to stay in first-class hotels, and to attract rich business men and rich Americans of all kinds to stay in the luxury hotels, our tourist trade should not depend primarily on those people. That means greater attention will have to be given to the medium type hotel which will cater for the not so well off American, and the average tourist who comes here from the United Kingdom.

I appreciate that one of the great difficulties Bord Fáilte have is that the grants are available, as the Minister said, both for the bigger and the smaller type hotel, and that the bigger type hotel has made application, but so far it has been hard to get the smaller hotel and boarding house to apply. If they will not apply, it seems to me that the logical conclusion must be that Ostlanna Iompair Éireann will have to go into the small hotel business themselves, and the development of the medium type hotel will have to be undertaken by a State organisation. If in three years' time we are to have this increased tourist population. We must be able to cater for them. It would do far more harm than good to land 8,000 or 10,000 people in this country if we had no place for them to go to. They will want to travel all over the country. They will have their cars with them, and they will not be content to stay in the same place in Cork, Limerick or Dublin. The development must be that either the small hotels will have to wake themselves up, or the State will have to show them the way, because the type of hotel we need now is the motel type, or the ordinary popular family type hotel where charges are reasonable and to which a family of ordinary means from our own country or from overseas— and particularly from Britain—can go.

There is one final point I should like to make. I should like to see more co-operation with the Ulster Tourist Board. I know there are considerable difficulties, and I know well that it is not the fault of the Minister that there is no apparent co-operation yet, but I should very much like to see an appeal to "Come to Ireland". The appeal in all our advertisements is to come to Ireland but, in fact, it means to come to the Republic. I should like to see a joint appeal put out to people to come to the Republic and go to the North, and to go to the North and come to the Republic, and make a round tour, with the help and blessing of the Ulster Tourist Board and Bord Fáilte.

I should like to say a word of praise here for Ireland of The Welcomes. It is an excellent magazine and probably does more good in a quiet, unassuming way for the tourist industry, than any magazine, or any article in any magazine I know. I should like to see the appeal of Ireland of The Welcomes spread to the North of Ireland. There are innumerable ways in which there could be co-operation between here and the North. Only the other day I came across an example which seemed to me to be quite absurd. A friend of mine who lives in England wanted to come here and hire a car and take it to the North. He discovered that under some regulation which they have in Northern Ireland, as a resident of the United Kingdom he was not allowed to drive a car with a Republic registration in the North. That seems to be completely silly. The reverse is not true. With a little co-operation between the two parts of the country, I am sure that sort of thing could be ironed out, and other little knots could also be ironed out which would be of great benefit to our tourist industry, and the tourist industry of Northern Ireland, in other words, of Ireland as a whole.

Very briefly I should like to join in the tribute which was paid to the Minister for the manner in which he asked the House for this further £1½ million. I must say he made his case very fully, and he treated the House seriously. He came in here convinced that this is one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, and that he should treat it as such, and make his case to it. Certainly, with other Senators, I appreciate that very much.

There are just two points I want to touch on. One has already been dealt with by Senator Murphy, and, very effectively, by Senator Ross. It is the fact that most of the hotels in this country seem to be determined to kill the goose that is laying the golden egg. Senator Ross apparently was mistaken for an English gentleman. I think it is unlikely that I would be so mistaken by anybody but, as recently as yesterday afternoon, in this city of Dublin in quite an ordinary hotel, I was charged the sum of 19/- for some steak, vegetables, cheese and coffee. I think I can say to the House that that is a charge which is beyond the average, or even above the average, income group. If the Minister has any influence with these hotels I think he should try and encourage them to make more reasonable charges. I might say, in that charge of 19/-, there was a 10 per cent service charge. I just wonder whether a further 2½ per cent, which will now become operative as the result of one of the Minister's trips to the other House since he came in here, will be added on to hotel charges, and instead of 10 per cent added on to the hotel bill the hotel managers will add on 12½ per cent. If they do, I think it will certainly increase the cost of eating out and it will damage the tourist industry. I say that in all seriousness.

There is another point I should like to deal with. The Minister was kind enough to say it was outside the scope of the Bill when he informed me that he was providing money through Bord Fáilte to train hotel staff. I think, speaking for myself, hotels give reasonably good employment to their employees. I wonder if the Minister has received any serious complaints from the hotel staff. I listened attentively to Senator Murphy and I gathered that he had not any real complaints to make against hotel managements for the way they treated their hotel staff.

Vocational education committees, I think, do good work in providing scholarships to enable pupils leaving technical schools to take a course of training in hotel work of one type or another. I know one vocational committee which finds it difficult to have those scholarships taken up and I feel that that is due in no small degree to the fact that some responsible members of these committees discourage and dissuade pupils from going in for hotel work on the grounds that they are badly treated, that it is blind alley employment and that they will get insufficient wages and bad conditions.

I know at least one committee in this country where a responsible member of the Oireachtas has made those pronouncements on a number of occasions. I know another vocational committee in a totally different part of the country where a somewhat similar campaign was carried out. I know one swallow does not make a summer but I think, by and large, if there is reasonably good employment given for well-trained staff, then the Minister, either himself, or through his colleague, the Minister for Education, should instruct the CEO's in the various committees to bring before the pupils the advantages to be gained from accepting these scholarships. Either the Minister or his colleague, the Minister for Education, should encourage the vocational education committees to provide these scholarships and should give sufficient publicity, either through the schools, or otherwise, to ensure that the scholarships will be taken up and that the hotel business in general will not be misrepresented.

I do not intend to delay the House except to suggest to the Minister that in future legislation provision should be made, now that the top grade hotel industry has been catered for and that we are now to concentrate on the Grade B and C hotels, for financial support to those people who are catering in angling centres. I was hoping that provision might be made in this Bill in this regard but I see there is no provision. In the counties of Leitrim, Longford, Monaghan, Cavan, all inland counties, the people are catering for the angling tourists in their own private houses and are providing the necessary accommodation—accommodation which has been scheduled by Bord Fáilte as suitable accommodation for these people.

I have personal knowledge of cases where people actually increased their accommodation, and, unfortunately, when they applied to the Department of Local Government for grants they were turned down on the grounds that they were providing increased accommodation for their business. It is rather unfortunate as some of them have spent a considerable sum of money in the hope that they would get a grant from the Department of Local Government. But, the Department are keeping a cautious eye on the particular sums they pay and saying that these people do not qualify for a housing grant. I would ask the Minister to consider this particular aspect of the tourist industry.

I would also ask the Minister, in the case of the development of the major resorts, that consideration should be given to the centres I have already mentioned in regard to the amenities for coarse fishing, anglers and other tourists. I see, from my own personal experience, that people are coming inland more than heretofore. They are discovering the country and they are inclined to stay in those places. I would suggest that those areas I have mentioned, while they have not got the attractions of some of the major resorts, should be given some provision for their development, and especially for the amenities which they have for coarse fishing, the angler, his wife and his family.

I am not quite sure if the point I want to raise is in order under this Bill, but, I have already stated my views on this problem on several Bills. Strictly, my complaint comes under the heading of air pollution, and I wonder if the Minister could help me on this.

Over and over again, I have referred to the evil smelling fumes from some of our industries which envelop this city with a deplorable stench. I would ask the Minister if he could do anything to force the industrialists to control the menace, or could Bórd Fáilte use some of the money being voted to it to do something? I have seen crowds of visitors, as well as ordinary citizens, mothers and children, being positively driven out of St. Stephen's Green because of this menace. I wonder whether the Minister can do anything about this.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I think the Senator has done very well but I do not think the Minister has any function in this matter.

I shall be brief in my comments. A good deal of criticism has been made in regard to the industry through what we might terms rural Ireland in regard to charges. That evidently is true up to a certain point. There are, of course, outstanding hotels where there are fixed charges, as any of us know who travel through the country. They have fixed charges summer and winter and they are quite above board in regard to what the costs are. But, apparently, when the tourist season comes along, other people in the catering industry feel that that is the time to reap a harvest. That, of course, is bound to injure the tourist industry, the success of which so interests everybody. I think the Minister and Bord Fáilte might examine the possibility of implementing some type of new regulation, in view of the fact that the taxpayer, through the Government, is contributing towards the building up of the hotel industry.

As far as I can understand from the Minister's statement, no distinction is made on the question of grants. Whether you live in the city, in the country, or in some remote district, a grant is provided, if the case made is just, under the conditions necessary for getting a grant. Conditions are the same in regard to loans, provided the person concerned, or the particular proprietor, qualifies. The question of the district in which he lives makes no difference, or at least it is not stated in the Minister's statement that there is any difference. He will get the same concession as if he were resident in a big industrial area like Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Waterford or in any of the big towns. They also get the same consideration in regard to interest charges on moneys borrowed whether under guarantee for construction or improvement works. It does not matter what way they are situated when a grant, loan, or relief by way of interest charges is given. That is very important because that relief is not given to industry in general, if I understand the position rightly.

In the building industry, where houses are built for our people in big industrial centres, the interest charges go on to the costs—loan charges outside of the grants, of course. They have to pay interest charges, whatever they may be—and they are pretty high. It all goes on to the person who builds his own house in any of these places. If I understand the position rightly, there is no relief as regards interest charges. I am not objecting to that. I think it is a good thing to see that as far as any relief can be given in the tourist industry it is given.

The returns from the industry in the different parts of the country should be about the same. The charges should be equivalent whether the hotel is in rural Ireland or in Dublin, Cork, or anywhere else. In that way, I think that people who come from England or America or anywhere else would have no grievance in travelling through the country. Usually, they remain in a certain place for a short period and then move on. If the charges are uniform, the tourists cannot grumble. Even if the charges are high, if the tourist gets good service and good food he can have no grievance. The grievance appears to be that the charges in a number of cases are not uniform, or as near as possible to being uniform. I think that is where the Minister and Bord Fáilte come in. They should see that an organisation is set up to deal with that aspect of the matter and that as far as possible charges are reasonably uniform—not completely, perhaps, but reasonably so. We cannot have a perfect system. The charges should be cheaper in the country because it is possible that overhead charges are lower there. On the other hand, of course, the turnover of business may be less.

I wonder whether right through the country the charges stated on the menu cards are uniform. We know that in industrial centres and in cities the charges are stated on the menu cards. People know what is on the menu card and they know what the price is, but I wonder is that general. If it were general, I think we would not have heard grievances such as we had aired here a few moments ago by a Senator. I should like hear the Minister on those points regarding charges. It is not easy to have a perfect system but I think it would be well if those points could be considered.

There is also the question of staff and rates of wages. In the main industrial centres, where there is organisation, everybody knows what the wage rates paid to the staff are. It is important that, as far as possible, there should be minimum rates regardless of whether it is a hotel or guesthouse, or whatever it might be, which is employing labour. Perhaps, the trade union concerned, which caters principally for the workers in the major centres, and Bord Fáilte might have that examined for the purpose of the setting up of minimum rates. Though, in general, there are no complaints, I have got them from time to time to the effect that rates are far from uniform for some workers in the industry. I should like to hear the Minister on this point.

I take it there is no objection to continuing the sitting in order to finish the remaining items?

We are agreeable.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The House has agreed to sit until the business ordered is dealt with.

First of all, I should like to thank Senators for the very helpful, friendly and constructive debate. Senators know that hotels that are registered with Bord Fáilte must publish their maximum prices including the arrangements for pension and there is a column in the Bord Fáilte guide which expresses the pension terms for three days or over and for weekly terms and if people find that they are not being charged according to the published statement which is supposed to be on view in the hotel they should, first of all, try to make a settlement with the hotel itself and if they are unable to do so they should complain to Bord Fáilte who will take up the matter. Bord Fáilte have the right to remove from the register a hotel which breaks the rule regarding the establishment of charges.

Hotel charges do vary from season to season and maximum hotel charges in the very high season or for special occasions such as some local festival are also indicated in the Bord Fáilte guide. I should make it clear that the practice of making differential charges throughout the year is widespread throughout Europe and although one has a feeling that it would be a very good thing if hotels could maintain the same charges throughout the year, the practice is virtually universal and is found in the most respectable hotels outside Ireland so the fact that the charges go up steeply at a certain time of the year is not anything that is unusual.

It would be very hard for me to say whether hotels as a whole are charging too much. I very much doubt it. I have made such examination as I can of the question. Apart from the advice I have got from Bord Fáilte, I have, naturally having an inquisitive mind, looked at various guide books and lists of approved hotels in Great Britain and the Michelin guide in the case of France and I do not have any evidence that hotels wide and large are charging high prices by comparison with other countries.

Obviously, there are exceptions. There may be hotels which are not giving good value for the prices they do charge but I could not possibly admit that, judged by foreign comparison, general price levels are excessive. I could not see that nor could I find evidence to point to this. It is true that we could improve our standards in a number of respects. The standard of food has improved a great deal and could improve still more.

What we all deplore are the exceptions, gross overcharging such as is indicated by Senator Murphy. I know that there are places of quite modest character where considerable sums are charged for meat teas, far beyond those that seem reasonable. They are setting a bad example and they do harm to hotels that make reasonable charges for the same type of meal. I myself have expressed publicly the hope that hotels will be careful to avoid overcharging. Having increased their prices to cover the eighth round increases in wages, they should take a long-term view of their profit situation. Bord Fáilte also point out the necessity for being careful in this regard and I hope as a result that hotels generally, observing the situation and seeing that in 1962, because of bad weather and a slight financial recession, the increase in the number of people coming here failed to show the same rate of growth as in the previous year, they will all take a sensible and sane attitude towards the matter. There is no reason to suppose that they will not.

I have been asked about the number of complaints Bord Fáilte received in a given year. In the last year of which I have a record there were 548 complaints including such matters as poor accommodation, inefficient service and overcharging. I am glad to say that in a number of cases overcharging was settled fairly quickly and in some cases the overcharging was a genuine mistake in the account which could have been settled at the time by the customer if he had approached the hotel manager and gone into the question with him or her.

I cannot say what Bord Fáilte have done regarding the removal of hotels from the register for gross overcharging or malpractice. I would say that very few have been removed and that warnings are generally effective, but I should not like anything I have said to give the impression to the House that the country is full of profiteering hotels. From all I know and from the letters I have got, not many complaints are received. I have no evidence by way of letters or protests by responsible bodies of widespread overcharging or abuses in the hotel industry. I should like to make it clear that it is all the more important to see that the minority of people who overcharge are constrained and encouraged to do so no more.

On the observations by Senator Murphy regarding staff, I hope that hotelkeepers are coming to realise that it pays to look after staff well. I know there have been a great deal of improvements in staff conditions in recent years. More improvements can still come. The fact that hotels are applying for staff accommodation grants indicates a progressive attitude, the right kind of attitude, that it is ethically right to treat staff well and that it also pays dividends in the long run because a contented staff is one of the most attractive features to visitors who come here as well as to our own people when they are on holidays.

Bord Fáilte have nothing to do with wages or staff conditions. It would be impossible for Bord Fáilte to deal with that matter but it is open to a trade union to apply to the Labour Court for official recognition of a joint labour committee. That could be done in connection with the hotel industry and in that case minimum wage conditions could be enforceable.

As Senator Murphy knows, conditions regarding staff differ widely from area to area. There are some hotels in the depths of the country with a very short season where income to staff on a temporary basis forms a part of the rural economy. It would be very difficult to integrate wage conditions for that type of staff with those of staff operating in Dublin where it is absolutely true to say that wage conditions should be of the very best kind possible. All I can say, I think, is that as the hotel industry grows more prosperous and in view of the difficulty of procuring staff, wage conditions should improve. I hope they will improve. I am encouraging hotelkeepers to improve hotel conditions and the fact that staff is difficult to get will make necessary changes for the better in that regard.

Senator Ross made various observation regarding food served in hotels. There has been a great improvement in food standards. I have encouraged publicly the naming of dishes using Irish regional names. The Great Southern Hotels have set an excellent example in giving dishes Irish regional names but Senator Ross must recognise that if food is cooked really well certain types of dishes are universally known and recognised by customers by their French names and we must think of a mixed practice of calling some dishes by Irish regional names, some by traditional French names and describing some in an absolutely simple way. One cannot make a generalisation.

In reply to Senator Ross, courses for chefs are provided in this country. Chefs can be trained and the school in Athenry, for example, is particularly commendable in that regard. May I again stress that there are no luxury hotels in this country. Senator Ross, probably accidentally, referred to the ending of Bord Fáilte's campaign for luxury hotels and the extension of their activities now to building up more B and D class accommodation. I have already stated in my speech that a very considerable number of B and C class rooms have been built since 1958 under the Bord Fáilte scheme and I have also stated that no luxury hotels exist in this country according to international standards, only top grade hotels. I would illustrate that by saying that about 50 per cent of the bed occupancy in a great number of the A class hotels around the country is by Irish people. Some of this ill-considered talk suggesting that we are building hotels for enormously wealthy, cigar smoking millionaires from various countries who will come here and not be able to appreciate any of the scenery we offer to them, is just ridiculous propaganda.

The suggestion was made by Senator Ross that Ostlanna Iompair Éireann should consider providing accommodation for this need and that if private enterprise does not supply the necessary B and D class accommodation OIE should provide it where needed. We have examined the problem and are in touch with OIE and they are collaborating with Bord Fáilte in our examination of the whole hotel problem, whose solution will form part of the Second Programme for Economic Expansion.

I should add that, as I said in my earlier speech, it is a complex problem. There are places where accommodation is not booked at the present time. There are places where there would be heavier booking if the existing accommodation were improved. There are places where the season is too short, apparently through lack of original publicity and through the lack of a local development association assisting Bord Fáilte in promoting the June holiday plan for ensuring visitors in June at lower prices and for encouraging every form of amenity and sport and so on, which helps to extend the season.

Senator Fitzpatrick spoke of the service charges. Quite obviously we should not have excessive service charges in this country but in whole countries of Europe the minimum charge is 15 per cent.

A number of Senators spoke generally on hotel prices. They asked for uniform charges; they asked me to advert to the charges made by hotels and they spoke of charges during different seasons. I suggest to them that they should look at the Bord Fáilte hotel guide. They will see from the prices charged that each hotel exercises a restraining influence quite obviously on others of its class in the country as a whole and in its area. If Senators would have a look at that guide they would get a better picture of what the position is.

Senator Fitzpatrick also spoke of the deprecatory remarks that have been made at meetings of vocational education committees in connection with scholarships offered for hotel training. This scheme has only just started and Bord Fáilte will be watching the position carefully. The vocational committees are represented on the central council of CERT, and if it is necessary to take action to give full information about the kinds of jobs available and the conditions attaching to those jobs, and to counteract exaggerated comment by various members of local authorities about the desirability of encouraging young people to go to work in the hotel industry, we can be certain that work will be done, and done adequately, and Bord Fáilte will make sure that the position is properly explained to the public.

Senator Mooney spoke of the need to provide further aid for the smaller type of guesthouse in the fishing areas. Registered guesthouses can get interest free loans and grants, and this is as far as we go at the moment. In connection with the present plan submitted to me by Bord Fáilte, we are making an examination to see what more needs to be done in connection with that type of accommodation. In some areas the unregistered accommodation listed by Bord Fáilte is not yet fully taken up, even accommodation where the conditions are satisfactory and where the houses are thoroughly satisfactory for taking in guests. All that has to be looked into with great care but the matter is being examined.

Minor resort development does not really arise on this Bill, but Bord Fáilte have given a certain amount of assistance in connection with minor resort development in the fishing areas. Amenity grants up to 50 per cent are available through the Minister for Local Government, to local authorities, to associations and to individuals for the improvement of just the kind of amenity so valuable for the tourist industry and particularly valuable for families of fishermen who come to the Midlands and central areas.

Senator Miss Davidson spoke on the question of diesel fumes. This is not my responsibility, but I am glad to tell the Senator that CIE have at least been able to play their part by renovating the exhaust system of all the Dublin buses. She will have noticed that the emission of black smoke which was so very prevalent is rapidly diminishing in the bus system generally in Dublin. The question of diesel fumes is, of course, a matter for the Minister for Health or the Minister for Local Government or both.

I think that I have covered all the points made in the course of this debate and I once again thank Senators for their friendly attitude.

If I might explain to the Minister, I am afraid it is nothing so pleasant as diesel fumes that I am talking about. I am talking about the fertiliser factories as far as I can make it out along the quays which eject their foul-smelling fumes into the air. After all, air comes into tourist traffic. I have raised this before and have even raised it with Bord Fáilte people to tell them they should look after it because it is a very serious thing. It is just too bad to have foreign visitors think that we could have no better air than the air that comes over Dublin city weekly, and even drives mothers, children and visitors from Stephen's Green and that part of the city. It has nothing to do with diesel fumes at all.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without recommendation, received for final consideration and passed.